Letters: Home-site lease process helps spread virus

This is in response to coronavirus on the Navajo Nation reported by Adam Yamaguchi (“Navajo Nation residents face coronavirus without running water”). As a Navajo Nation citizen, one issue that is newsworthy that is never brought to light is the home-site lease process.

Multi-generational Navajo families live in overcrowded homes, which has attributed to the spread of COVID-19. In order for a Navajo individual to get a piece of property (one acre) on the Navajo Nation they need to apply for a home-site lease.

The home-site lease process is laborious, as well as physically and financially burdensome. The Navajo applicant has to hire an archaeologist for land clearance, cultural resources compliance officer, and must find a vacant location and ask for permission from the Navajo Land Department to live on that site (this is where it gets difficult).

If that site belonged to a person, who has been long deceased, rather than re-assign the land to a new tenant the land department puts the burden on the applicant to locate the deceased individual’s family and ask permission to live on the site.

More often than not, the deceased family member denies the request. (It is unknown why the Navajo Nation Land Department allows this to happen rather than use their authority to re-assign a vacant property.)

They can apply for a quiet title through Navajo Nation court. This process can take over 20 years just to have a hearing. The result is Navajos give up and choose to live in a multi-generational home. If the applicant does acquire a home-site lease, the land department does not assist Navajo families whose neighbors prevent them from building a home and harasses them.

The Navajo Land Department gives a lot of power to individuals who object to other Navajos living near them. When there is discourse, the Navajo Land Department does not step in to remedy the situation.

Due to the Navajo Land Department’s silence, Navajos have murdered each other over one acre of land. There is also the issue of red lining. Banks do not give home loans to Navajos because they live on trust land. If Navajos want a home, they have to build it themselves because there are no Navajo-owned businesses that build homes on the Navajo Nation.

Having a Navajo-owned business in the nation is difficult, which is why there is no economic growth. (Another good story — Navajo Nation Economic Development Office does not promote Navajo-owned business or outside business to come in to the nation to bring jobs).

There is the Navajo Housing Authority that has a 40-year waiting list for a home but, once again, a home-site lease is required to apply for a home. Navajo families who are middle class do not qualify for a NHA home. Once again, families give up and just build a shack or buy a mobile home that deteriorates over time. Navajo Tribal Utility Authority requires a home-site lease to provide water and electricity.

The lack of a home-site lease is the foundation to why Navajos live in poverty because without a lease they cannot build a home to have water and electricity. This is a story that needs to be told. Navajos live in Third World conditions, not by choice, but by roadblocks set by our own government.

Candita Woodis
Shiprock, N.M.

Why is illegal hemp production prospering?

Why is illegal hemp cultivation and production prospering and booming in the farm lease lands of Shiprock and Hogback communities? This is a huge operation and semi-trucks are constantly transporting supplies to the giant greenhouses in the Mesa Farm area.

This operation is financially funded by hemp products and legal medical marijuana products supplier based in the Albuquerque area. San Juan River Farm Board supports the illegal hemp cultivation. The board president took control of the board members.

Only two members are truthful to their elected position. The other board members turned self-interest to their elected position. One board member has a greenhouse built on her farm plot and one grazing official has one built on his grazing area.

Farmers authorized hemp planted on their farm plots and getting paid for their farm plot use. Where is the Bureau of Indian Affairs Natural Resources office? They are supposed to manage these farm plots. Where is Navajo Nation? Do they know a greenhouse is built on their cancelled lease RV Park? Does this mean we can start a business without proper business clearance?

Only a few people and the hidden Albuquerque business is making a huge profit from the Navajo land, without paying taxes. We have non-Indian workforce working on these illegal operations. The farmers are having a tough time to harvest. We deal with all kind of farm problems.

Our elected farm board members are nowhere around to assist us.

Sammy Ahkeah
Shiprock, N.M.

Illegal hemp production

I am a San Juan River Farm Board member representing the Nenahnezad Chapter. My concern about the illegal hemp activity has led me to do some research and the following is my findings and opinions. Pursuant to a legal opinion on certain provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) relating to hemp, “it shall be unlawful to produce hemp in territory of Indian tribe without a license issued by the Secretary.”

Secretary is defined as the USDA secretary of agriculture. The legal opinion was written for Sonny Perdue, secretary of agriculture, by Stephen Vaden, general counsel, on May 28, 2019. This citation can be found in Sec. 297C of the writing.

By this act, hemp production is illegal without a license. Does the industry hemp operation in the Northern Agency have a license to grow hemp? Why is the Navajo Nation chief of police, Phillip Francisco, testing for THC levels when the real question should be “where is your hemp growing license?” The legal opinion continues, under “negligent and other violation” that enforcement will be carried out by the secretary instead of a tribal government.

The Navajo Nation government has not developed any regulations or guidelines to control hemp production. Therefore, the Navajo government has no powers to enforce hemp production, where there are no laws there is no policing. With what jurisdiction did the Navajo Tribe file lawsuit against Mr. Benally and his associates in the tribal court system? By the way, this lawsuit has been denied on technicalities by the Shiprock District Court.

On another issue, the San Juan River Farm Board president, Dineh Benally, insists the “land” where the land-use permit is issued belong to individual permittees (farmers) and is not Navajo trust lands. On numerous occasions the board has asked for written documentation to support this claim to no avail. I already envision the exploitation of farmers on this line of thought.

The hemp producers are exploiting our deficient land laws and lack of enforcement to their advantages by the almighty dollar and get-rich-quick schemes tactics they use. They have approached many Navajo farmers to take over their farm for hemp production using these tactics and some have took the bait.

At the last board meeting on June 30, the Natural Resource manager of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Northern Agency, stated there was no recent LUP sublease agreement on file in their office. To my understanding this is the official land-use office. In addition, for those permittees that allowed development of hemp on their permit, “is hemp production stated in their conservation plan?” A conservation plan is a requirement by BIA.

Just to mention, the newly hired resources manager was reluctant to say the irrigated lands around the river were federal trust lands. Without an authorized sublease, the LUP holders are liable for any illegal activities on their farm.

This is exploitation of farmers. The hemp production activity has agitated the Northern Agency communities along the San Juan River. Some are saying what is happening, “Is this hemp legal, where are our leaders?” While others are saying, “This is economic development, we need the money, just let it be.”

In my opinion, analyzing the two trains of thought with concerns of Navajo culture, the Navajo people and community harmony, I have to side with the people that are concerned with illegal activity.

In closing, to resolve this matter and restore harmony, I am asking all concerned law-abiding Navajos, the Navajo Nation president, and Navajo Council delegates to direct all complaints about illegal hemp production on the Navajo Reservation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Secretary of Agriculture, and demand resolution.

Tracy Raymond
San Juan River Farm Board Nenahnezad Chapter
Fruitland, N.M.

Nez-Lizer violate Bill of Rights

Recent activities of the Office of the President and Vice President got me thinking about our rights as Navajo people, Diné. As leaders, it should be their responsibility to respect and uphold the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights (there are nine).

These rights belong to every one of us on the Navajo Nation. Section 1: Other rights not impaired; deletion or abridgement only by public referendum. The enumeration herein of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

No provision of this chapter, the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights, shall be abridged or deleted by amendment or otherwise, except by referendum vote of the Navajo electorate in accordance with applicable provisions of the laws of the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation Bill of Rights (1.N.N.C., Section 4) Freedom of religion, speech, press, and the right of assembly and petition. The Navajo Nation Council shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Navajo Nation government for a redress of grievances.

Once favoritism is shown to a certain religion or belief, that discrimination causes discomfort, distrust, and division. It has been the blatant, obvious actions recently by the OPVP to put Christianity on a pedestal.

The first lady and second lady were present at what was thought to be a Murdered Missing Indigenous Women’s Conference at Twin Arrows and it turned out to be a Christian rally. People left when they found out they had been duped into attending this. This is being untruthful and using money dishonestly for what was supposed to be an honest approach to a real problem.

Religion is and should be a private or personal affair. The initial intent of the U.S. government was to destroy our families, culture, history, way of life, and language. They kidnapped our children and put them in schools so that the teachers would beat them into submission.

Nez-Lizer have so far shown that they cannot honor the religion of all members of the Navajo/Diné Nation. There have been so many instances of Nez/Lizer violating the Bill of Rights that they should be charged with violating our rights. If they are allowed to continue, every religion in the world might claim the right to come onto our nation. I don’t even want to start naming them.

This weakness and vulnerability, this exposed underside of this administration is not characteristic of the government in Window Rock. In other words, there should be a solid wall between church and state. Stop this now! Stop selling us out for a few pictures for your narcissistic addiction.

Barbara J. Morgan
Shiprock, N.M.


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